A Guide to the Executive Papers of Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr., 1781 June 12-November 22 Nelson, Thomas, Jr., Executive Papers of, 1781 June 12-November 22 44502

A Guide to the Executive Papers of Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr., 1781 June 12-November 22

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Accession Number 44502


Library of Virginia

The Library of Virginia
800 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219-8000
Phone: (804) 692-3888 (Archives Reference)
Fax: (804) 692-3556 (Archives Reference)
Email: archdesk@lva.virginia.gov(Archives)
URL: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/

© 2009 By The Library of Virginia. All Rights Reserved.

Processed by: Craig S. Moore

The Library of Virginia
Accession Number
Executive Papers of Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr., 1781 June 12-November 22
3.35 cubic feet
Virginia Governor (1781 : Nelson)

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Virginia. Governor's Office. Executive Papers of Governor Thomas Nelson, 1781 June 12-November 22. Accession 44502. State Records Collection, The Library of Virginia.

Acquisition Information

Acquired prior to 1905

Alternative Form Available

Also available on microfilm - Miscellaneous Reel 2964-2969.

Biographical Information

Thomas Nelson, Jr., was born to William Nelson, a former colonial governor of Virginia, and Elizabeth Burwell Nelson on 26 December 1738 in Yorktown, Virginia. Graduating from Christ College at Cambridge University, England, in 1760, Nelson returned to Virginia in 1761. Nelson represented York County in the House of Burgesses from 1761 to 1775 and in the five Virginia Revolutionary Conventions. He represented Virginia in the Continental Congress from 1775 to 1777 and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Nelson returned to Virginia and again represented York County in the House of Delegates from 1777 to 1783 and from 1786 to 1788. He was a general in the Virginia militia and commanded the militia from 1777 to 1781. He was elected governor in June 1781 and led three thousand Virginia militiamen in General George Washington's Army during the siege at Yorktown. Nelson resigned as governor due to health in November 1781. While governor, Nelson Nelson married Lucy Grymes (1743-1830) on 29 July 1762, and they had thirteen children including Hugh Nelson, a United States Congressman from 1811 to 1822. Nelson died at his Hanover County, Virginia, plantation Mont Air on 4 January 1789.

Scope and Content

Governor Thomas Nelson's Executive papers are organized chronologically with undated items arranged at the rear of the collection. These papers consist of incoming correspondence and drafts of outgoing correspondence during Nelson's partial term as governor of Virginia between 12 June and 22 November 1781. The correspondence primarily relates to the Revolutionary War, the siege of Yorktown, arms, ammunition, and the militia. In addition to correspondence, there are accounts, receipts, proclamations, appointments, resolutions of Congress & the Virginia House of Delegates, acts, orders, depositions, petitions, recommendations, commissions, certificates, returns, and other sundry items.


This collection is arranged into the following series:

I. Executive Papers of Governor Thomas Nelson, 1781 June 12-November 22

Adjunct Descriptive Data


Palmer, William P., ed., CALENDAR OF VIRGINIA STATE PAPERS, 1781 April 1-December 31, VOL. II, Richmond: James E. Goode, Printer, 1881.


Palmer, William P., ed., CALENDAR OF VIRGINIA STATE PAPERS, 1781 April 1-December 31, VOL. II, Richmond: James E. Goode, Printer, 1881.

Contents List

Boxes 1-8
Executive Papers of Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr., 1781 June 12-November 22.
Extent: 8 boxes.

Noteworthy correspondence originates from the United States government, Virginia state government, and miscellaneous sources. Prominent correspondents from the United States government include Samuel Huntington & Thomas McKean, Presidents of the Continental Congress; Charles Thomson, Secretary of Congress; and James Madison, Theodorick Bland, Joseph Jones, and Edmund Randolph, Virginia's delegates in the Continental Congress.

Samuel Huntington encloses resolutions of the Continental Congress including a resolution for each state to advance more money to settle the accounts of the officers of the Hospital & Medical Department (1781 June 15). Huntington also encloses a resolution that the state of Delaware, Maryland, & Virginia settle with the officers & men of the invalid regiment on certificates from the commanding officer of the regiment (1781 June 27). Huntington's successor, Thomas McKean, includes a resolution of Congress regarding French seamen on U.S. vessels (1781 July 12). McKean also encloses a resolution for the purpose of procuring a loan for the distressed citizens of South Carolina & Georgia (1781 July 25). Finally, McKean writes regarding the resolutions of Congress concerning consular & vice- consular powers (1781 Sept. 21).

Robert Morris was responsible for financing the Revolution in his role as Superintendent of Finance. Morris encloses an act of Congress that the Superintendent of Finance be furnished with an account of the several requisitions of money & supplies from the states (1781 July 6). On 16 July 1781, Morris writes regarding the amount of money owed by Virginia to the United States. Morris also writes regarding an account of the specific supplies which have been supplied by Congress for Virginia (1781 Aug. 23). In addition, Morris writes regarding compliance with requisitions of Congress, paper emissions, & supplies (1781 Oct. 16). Morris also writes regarding pecuniary assistance from European states, fraudulent practices in funding public debt, & the need to restore national credit (1781 Oct. 19). Lastly, Morris encloses acts of Congress regarding the apportioning of quotas of the respective states (1781 Nov. 17).

Virginia's delegates in the Continental Congress including James Madison, Jr., Edmund Randolph, Joseph Jones, & Theodorick Bland, attempted to maintain weekly communications with the governor in order to stay informed on the conduct of the war. In their letter to Governor Nelson on 24 July 1781, the delegates urge the governor for a weekly correspondence and discuss the rejection of the offer of the Empress of Russia to settle the disputes between Holland & Great Britain, the capitulation of the Spanish commander at Pensacola, and the arrival of Admiral Digby at the Hook. In addition the delegates write concerning the following: a resolution of Congress to furnish Virginia with passports for vessels to import salt from Bermuda & a secret expedition of Spain against Minorca (1781 Aug. 14); the journey of Gen. Washington, part of the American army, Count de Rochambeau, & the whole of the French to Virginia (1781 Sept. 4); intelligence that Gen. Henry Clinton is preparing to embark a large body of troops at New York (1781 Sept. 11); the attack of Gen. Benedict Arnold at New London, the preparation of the enemy to embark troops from New York, intercepted letters from New York, & a report of the arrival of six French & six Dutch ships of the line in the West Indies (1781 Sept. 18); the embarkation of five thousand land forces at New York and the return of the British fleet (1781 Sept. 25); a weekly correspondence on military affairs in Virginia and the cessions of western territory made by Virginia, New York, & Connecticut (1781 Oct. 9); Congressional action on cession of western lands, peace with England, & assignment of quotas to be raised by the states (1781 Nov. 7); and requests for guard & provisions furnished by the security & support of the British prisoners at Winchester and the return of the British fleet to the Hook (1781 Nov. 20).

Significant correspondents from Virginia State government include Governor Thomas Nelson; Lieutenant Governor David Jameson; William Davies, War Office; John Beckley, Clerk of the House of Delegates; and William Drew, Clerk of the Senate.

Drafts of correspondence sent by Governor Thomas Nelson make up a significant portion of his Executive Papers. Governor Nelson corresponded with Virginia's delegates in the Continental, Congress, Thomas McKean, William Davies, Marquis de Lafayette, Gen. George Washington, Gen. Nathanael Greene, and others. Nelson writes on the following topics: validity of certificates signed by the Commissioner of the War Office (1781 June 20); his requisition of militia to proceed to South Carolina (1781 June 28); enemy movements in Hampton Roads & the Chesapeake, naval assistance, & trade with Bermuda (1781 July 26); the movements of Lord Cornwallis and Tarleton in the Carolina & part of Virginia (1781 July 27); the act of Congress respect French seamen (1781 July 28); the mounting of heavy cannon and the ordering of militia into service (1781 July 31); funds advanced to the Quarter Master Department and wagons for the Commissary General (1781 July 28); Count de Grasse & the French fleet's arrival in Virginia (1781 Sept. 2); supplies for the French troops at Jamestown (1781 Sept. 4); the movements of Gen. Washington with French troops to Virginia (1781 Sept. 4); the liquidation of accounts between Virginia & the United States and the settling of the specific supplies furnished by Virginia (1781 Sept. 5); his taking command of the militia (1781 Sept. 5); his arrival in Williamsburg, the arrival of the northern troops under Gen. Washington at the head of Elk, & a small conflict between the British & French fleets (1781 Sept. 11); ammunition for the siege at York (1781 Sept. 14); the arrival of Gen. Washington (1781 Sept. 14); wagons and the return of Count de Grasse from pursuing the British fleet (1781 Sept. 16); horses, supplies, & the return of Count de Grasse (1781 Sept. 16); officers of the Virginia Line who contracted debts in Charleston while prisoners (1781 Sept. 18); forage & spirits needed for the army (1781 Sept. 18); arms seized & delivered by Col. Barbour to the people of the county (1781 Sept. 19); a proposal for a magazine established at Shirley & the behavior of Col. Barbour (1781 Sept. 19); allowing the inhabitants of York a flag to bring out their effects & requesting a reason for Dr. Griffin's confinement (1781 Sept. 25); assistance in supplying the Army with provisions (1781 Sept. 26); provisions for the French fleet from the commissioners for Princess Anne & Norfolk counties (1781 Oct. 3); the capture of Governor Thomas Burke & his inability to send arms to North Carolina (1781 Oct. 6); the opening of trenches & heavy fire with the enemy and fighting against Tarleton in Gloucester (1781 Oct. 8); orders to the commanding officers of Princess Anne & Nansemond to level the works thrown up by the enemy in the counties of Norfolk & Princess Anne (1781 Oct. 16); refugees & slaves attempting to escape on board the Bonnetta, a sloop of war (1781 Oct. 20); Gen. Lawson's command of the militia ordered to conduct the British prisoners to their stations at Fredericksburg (1781 Oct. 20); the reduction of York & Gloucester and the capture of the whole British Army under Lord Cornwallis (1781 Oct. 20); orders of the militia to conduct the British prisoners allotted for Frederick to the borders of the state (1781 Oct. 21); Rev. William Andrews & Rev. Harrison who joined the British army and who were delivered into the hands of the civil power (1781 Oct. 21); and compensation for state officers not on Continental establishment & the militia at the siege of York (1781 Nov. 3).

As senior member of the Council of State, David Jameson served as lieutenant governor under Governor Thomas Nelson. Once Nelson took command of the Virginia militia leading up to the siege of Yorktown, Jameson corresponded with Nelson regarding the administration of the war. Jameson writes regarding the following subjects: supplies of flour & meal, Lafayette's request for small vessels to provide water to the French fleet, & correspondence from Governor Thomas Burke regarding Gen. Clinton's attempt to relieve Gen. Cornwallis & Governor Thomas Lee, Maryland, regarding the arrival of the French fleet & provisions (1781 Sept. 13); supplies, prisoners of war, & salt (1781 Sept. 15); provisions for the French fleet & army (1781 Sept. 26); the adjournment of the Assembly (1781 Oct. 3); and the request of the commanding officer of Gloucester County for three hundred militia to take charge of the British in Gloucester Town to march to Fredericksburg (1781 Nov. 5).

William Davies served as commissioner of the War Office. William Davies writes regarding his plan for the establishment of the War Office including the duties of the commissioner, the quarter master general, clothing department, & the adjutant general's department (1781 June 18); a return of militia cavalry to be furnished by the different counties (1781 July 14); mismanagement in the Commissary Department (1781 July 14); the powers of two field officers who have a right to the command of the new regiment and to fill vacancies (1781 July 22); clothing, saddles for the cavalry, & supplied for Gen. Alexander Spotswood's Legion (1781 July 25); the critical situation of the counties of the Northern Neck with an apprehended movement of the enemy up the Potomac (1781 July 26); a plan of organizing Anderson's Corps of Artificers (1781 Aug. 8); a petition of inhabitants of Botetourt County regarding their service in the militia and ordering a court martial (1781 Aug. 8); pay for the officers of the State Garrison Regiment (1781 Aug. 11); the conduct of John Brown as Commissary of Provisions (1781 Aug. 14); the appointment of Foster Webb as paymaster (1781 Aug. 17); the resignation of John Brown and his conduct (1781 Sept. 6); the exemption of from militia duty for person collecting & driving cattle for the War Office (1781 Sept. 12); extracts of letters from Richard Henry Lee regarding secure navigation of the Chesapeake Bay, the transportation of tobacco to Holland, and the purchase of vessels captured by the French fleet to suppress piracy (1781 Sept. 13); an extract of a letter from Col. Holmes regarding instructions as to the disposition of prisoners of war taken by the French at sea (1781 Sept. 14); the establishment of a magazine at Shirley, supplies, & wagons (1781 Sept. 15); cartridge boxes, wagons, & the conduct of the militia (1781 Sept. 17); powder & arms for the troops (1781 Sept. 26); adjournment since the operations against York will soon commence (1781 Sept. 28); horses & shoes for the French troops (1781 Oct. 6); and the condition of the Quarter Master's Department in Staunton (1781 Nov. 15).

As clerks of the House of Delegates and Senate, John Beckley and William Drew often transmitted resolutions to Governor Nelson. Noteworthy resolutions include the following: appointment of William Cabell, Samuel Hardy, & Samuel McDowell to the Council of State (1781 June 12); a resolution calling into service of as many militia as can be properly armed to join the army under Lafayette (1781 June 12); a resolution for the appointment of a public agent to present the representation of the House of Delegates to the General Assembly of North Carolina regarding titles to lands supposed to be in Virginia (1781 June 12); a resolution for the purchase of a gelding & furniture for Gen. Edward Stevens to replace one lost at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse (1781 June 13); a resolution that William Campbell be appointed a brigadier general in the militia (1781 June 14); a resolution that the governor make remittances to the delegates in Congress either by giving order for the purchasing & transmitting to them tobacco or hemp (1781 June 19); a resolution that the governor offer a pardon for suppressing the insurgents in the western & Northwestern frontiers (1781 June 21); a resolution that the governor be empowered to appoint a secretary (1781 June 22); an act to regulate the department of the War Office (1781 June 22); and a resolution that the General Assembly adjourn to Richmond on the first Monday in October (1781 June 23).

The principal miscellaneous correspondent to Governor Nelson was the Marquis de Lafayette. General Marquis de Lafayette communicated frequently with Governor Nelson regarding the management of the war. Lafayette discusses the following subjects: punishment to militia for leaving the Army without permission, the practice of county lieutenants granting flags for people entering enemy lines, & the movements of Lord Cornwallis (1781 June 26); the desertion of militia, lack of reinforcements, a corps of "Nigroes," the need to raise & equip cavalry, & the need for wagons (1781 July 1); the exchange of prisoners, the need for shoes, & arms at Fredericksburg and Hanover Court House (1781 July 3); enemy movements (1781 July 10); Col. Richard Henry Lee's Legion, the need for horses, & permission to enlist one hundred dragoons, one hundred infantry, & sixty riflemen (1781 July 12); enemy movements, a request to call up a large number of militia, & moving stores away from the enemy (1781 July 13); his request to know when the militia reached Boyd's Ferry & a request for a corps above Williamsburg (1781 July 19); impressment of horses for the cavalry (July 21); relief for paroled, exchanged, & exchangeable prisoners (1781 July 23); a horse & Continental money for Capt. Ligond, an officer in Gen. Pulaski's Legion (1781 July 27); impressment instructions, the fleet in Hampton Roads, & an increase in strength of Col. Ennis's forces (1781 July 27); orders on the Treasury, martial law, & aid to Charleston prisoners (1781 July 29); reinforcements to Gen. Nathanael Greene, French naval superiority, & heavy arms to use against Portsmouth (1781 July 29); sick prisoners at Williamsburg (1781 Aug. 4); the need for arms & ammunition (1781 Aug. 6); the scarcity of arms & ammunition, Cornwallis's movements, & reinforcements (1781 Aug. 6); magazines, arms, & transportation (1781 Aug. 7); a state commissary of military stores & a recommendation for Capt. John Pryor to that post (1781 Aug. 13); enemy movements & the need for supplies (1781 Aug. 16); Lord Cornwallis's orders to the families to remove their effects (1781 Aug. 19); an order on the Treasury on behalf of the Continental Field Commissary of Military Stores (1781 Aug. 20); Lord Cornwallis's movements & calling out of militia for reinforcement (1781 Aug. 20); the need for provisions & unwise practices of county lieutenants & commissioners (1781 Aug. 26); French troops landing at Jamestown (1781 Sept. 2); provisions for French troops at Jamestown (1781 Sept. 4); supplies for the hospital & provisions for the sick in hospital (1781 Sept. 6); the lack of grain in camp for either the American or French army (1781 Sept. 11); a prize to the French fleet of a brig loaded with rum (1781 Sept. 15); and a request for an account of his conduct in the impressment of horses (1781 Oct. 31).

Additional significant correspondence includes: Arthur Campbell, Washington, encl. a letter Col. Joseph Martin re. a probable Indian attack (1781 June 15); Garret Van Meter, County Lieutenant of Hampshire County, re. an insurrection in Hampshire County (1781 June 16); Richard Claiborne, Deputy Quarter Master, encl. a copy of the arrangement of the Quarter Master's Department including the names of the assistant deputy quarter masters & their posts (1781 June 24); Nathanael Greene re. the order of Governor Thomas Jefferson prohibiting the Virginia militia from joining Green's army (1781 June 27); Nathanael Greene re. the importance of "Partizan Corps" and the necessity for augmenting their cavalry (1781 June 29); Governor Thomas Burke, North Carolina, re. possible enemy movements and requesting military cooperation with the surrounding Virginia counties (1781 July 19); William Christian re. the commission to treat with the Cherokee Indians (1781 July 5); Thomas Mathews re. the landing of the enemy at Mill Creek and the plunder of the inhabitants there (1781 July 23); Col. Christian Senf requesting fifty or sixty slaves & tools to work on the fortification at Hoods (1781 July 27); Col. Christian Senf, Powhatan Fort, re. the procurement of entrenching tools (1781 July 31); John Blair, Nathaniel Burwell, John De Siqueyra, James Madison, & J. Prentis, Directors of the Lunatic Hospital, re. the present state of the hospital (1781 July [N.D.]); George Rogers Clark, Weelin [Wheeling], re. problems in raising a force (1781 Aug. 4); James McHenry, Aid de camp, re. the establishment of magazines for the storage of arms & provisions (1781 Aug. 8); E. Archer resigning as a member of the Board of Auditors (1781 Aug. 9 ); Governor Thomas Burke re. orders to the Commissary General of North Carolina to make provision for the militia to join Gen. Greene (1781 Aug. 12); Governor Thomas Burke, North Carolina, re. enemy movements towards the York River, salt trade, & encl. extracts of a letter from Gen. Nathanael Greene (1781 Aug. 15); Gen. Anthony Wayne re. appropriations for clothing for the Virginia State Line & encl. a copy letter Lafayette to Wayne re. clothing (1781 Aug. 19); Gen. Anthony Wayne, Camp New Castle, re. the need for provisions & requesting the necessary orders for an immediate supply of articles (1781 Aug. 19); Lord Cornwallis re. the confinement of Messrs. Archer & Royall and a request for their parole (1781 Sept. 15); Henry Lee encl. a copy of a letter from Gen. Washington re. using the militia ordered out by the governor to repair the roads from Occoquan to Dumfries (1781 Sept. 17); Robert Burton, Quarter Master, North Carolina, re. Governor Burke's imprisonment by the Tories and Governor Nelson's letter re. supplies of salt & beef (1781 Sept. 22); James Anderson providing a return of slaves belonging to the public (provides name & age of slave) (1781 Sept. 24); John Madison, Monongalia County, re. his appointment to extend Mason & Dixon's line twenty-three miles (1781 Sept. 29); John Cropper, Accomack County, re. prisoners who opposed the draft (1781 Sept. 30); John Floyd, Jefferson County, Kentucky, re. the number of militia, the desperate condition of the county, & the defense of Kentucky (1781 Oct. 6); George Rogers Clark, Ft. Nelson, re. a bill by Capt. Robert George of Ft. Jefferson from Phillip Barbour of New Orleans (1781 Oct. 6); M. de St. John re. his gratitude for the establishment of a hospital for the French troops (1781 Oct. 9); Charles Womack, Warwick, encl. a list of slaves belonging to the Public Tannery & Rope Walk (1781 Oct. 10); Count de Rochambeau re. articles agreed upon him & Lt. Gov. Jameson re. forage and urging the impressment of boats to speed evacuation of British sick (1781 Nov. 6); Thomas Durie, Fredericksburg, re. the arrival of prisoners (1781 Nov. 17); Robert R. Livingston, Philadelphia, requesting a return of damages done by the enemy within Virginia (1781 Nov. 12); and Alex Martin, Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, re. the capture of Governor Burke and the government of the state devolving on him as speaker of the senate (1781 Nov. 20).

Other noteworthy items include the following: a representation of the House of Delegates, Committee of Courts of Justice, to the General Assembly of North Carolina for a provision for those persons who have obtained titles to lands for supposed to be in Virginia, but which are likely to fall in the state of North Carolina (1781 June 12); a certificate of qualification of Thomas Nelson, Jr., as governor (1781 June 19); a certificate of qualification of Samuel McDowell as privy councilor (1781 June 19); a certificate of qualification of Samuel Hardy as privy councilor (1781 June 19); a proclamation of Governor Nelson laying an embargo on provisions including beef, pork, bacon, wheat, Indian corn, peas, and other grain or flour or meal (1781 Sept. 5); a deposition of Willis Wilson re. his treatment by the British as a prisoner of war (1781 Sept. 21); resolutions of Congress that Brig. Gen. William Irvine be ordered to Ft. Pitt to take command (1781 Sept. 24); a proclamation of Governor Nelson summoning the General Assembly to meet in Richmond on November 5 (1781 Oct. 16); articles of capitulation between Gen. Washington, Count de Rochambeau, Count de Grasse, & Earl Cornwallis & Thomas Symonds and enclosing a list of prisoners (1781 Oct. 19); a list of refugees (1781 Oct. 27); recommendations of Thomas Jefferson & G. Wythe in favor of William Short as an attorney to practice law (1781 Nov. 2); and a plan of the arrangement of the Quarter Master's Department proposed by Capt. Young (undated).

Arranged in chronological order.

  • 1781
    • Box 1 Folder 1
      June 12-17
    • Box 1 Folder 2
      June 18-22
    • Box 1 Folder 3
      June 23-30
    • Box 1 Folder 4
      July 1-6
    • Box 1 Folder 5
      July 7-10
    • Box 2 Folder 1
      July 11-17
    • Box 2 Folder 2
      July 18-21
    • Box 2 Folder 3
      July 22-25
    • Box 2 Folder 4
      July 26-28
    • Box 2 Folder 5
      July 29-31
    • Box 3 Folder 1
      August 1-3
    • Box 3 Folder 2
      August 4-8
    • Box 3 Folder 3
      August 9-10
    • Box 3 Folder 4
      August 11-15
    • Box 3 Folder 5
      August 16-20
    • Box 3 Folder 6
      August 21-25
    • Box 3 Folder 7
      August 26-31
    • Box 4 Folder 1
      September 1-3
    • Box 4 Folder 2
      September 4-6
    • Box 4 Folder 3
      September 7-11
    • Box 4 Folder 4
      September 12-13
    • Box 4 Folder 5
      September 14-15
    • Box 5 Folder 1
      September 16-18
    • Box 5 Folder 2
      September 19-20
    • Box 5 Folder 3
      September 21-23
    • Box 5 Folder 4
      September 24-26
    • Box 5 Folder 5
      September 27-30
    • Box 6 Folder 1
      October 1-2
    • Box 6 Folder 2
      October 3-7
    • Box 6 Folder 3
      October 8-10
    • Box 6 Folder 4
      October 11-14
    • Box 6 Folder 5
      October 15-21
    • Box 6 Folder 6
      October 22-31
    • Box 7 Folder 1
      November 1-6
    • Box 7 Folder 2
      November 7-10
    • Box 7 Folder 3
      November 11-16
    • Box 7 Folder 4
      November 17-22
    • Box 7 Folder 5
  • Box 7 Folder 6
Box 8
Oversized, 1781 & Undated.